By Roland Sebestyén
While Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is not in favour of a thorough drug policy reform, he expressed his support for a decision to effectively decriminalising drug possession in Scotland.
According to The Scotsman, Sir Keir has said Scotland’s most senior law officer, Dorothy Bain QC, was “probably right” when she announced that those caught with Class A drugs – including cocaine, heroin, LSD – will not be charged in the country.
Ms Bain said the aim of this new scheme was that the individuals could be referred to a mentor to provide support at the first point of contact with the police.
Basically, it’s a diversion from prosecution.
In an interview on ITV, Sir Keir said: “There is a world of difference between a decision not to prosecute a particular case and ripping up the drug laws.
“It is not unusual in any legal system for those caught with small amounts of cannabis not to be prosecuted.
“I don’t think many people would argue that that discretion isn’t sensible.
“The very same in Scotland – there is a world of difference between that exercise and saying ‘do you think drug laws should be scrapped?’ to which my answer is no.”
According to the new policy, the warnings are recorded on the criminal history system for two years, and can be taken into account should a person again come to the attention of the police.
Annemarie Ward, the chief executive of Faces and Voices of Recovery Scotland, a policy advocacy movement, welcomed the change in the policy but urged for more action as decriminalisation would “not help people to get well on its own.”
Sir Keir’s support might surprise some as a few months ago he was openly against decriminalising cannabis use.
In an interview, he said: “When I was director of public prosecutions, I prosecuted many, many cases involving drugs and drug gangs and the criminality that sits behind, and it causes huge issues to vulnerable people across the country.
“I’ve never gone down that route. I wouldn’t immediately [decriminalise cannabis]. I have supported schemes where you’re not arrested for it, you’re not prosecuted for it. And I believe in that.”